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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

New faculty members eager, excited for new beginnings at Guilford College

A college is only as good as its faculty. Thus, it is only fair that they are rewarded for their diligence.

This year, four professors were promoted to the tenure track: Assistant Professor of Art Mark Dixon, Assistant Professor of Business Management Richard Schilhavy, Assistant Professor of Business Management Wenling Wang and Assistant Professor of Biology Megan White.

While some of Guilford’s beloved faculty were rewarded for their hard work, two new professors were welcomed to campus, and even hired directly onto the tenure track.

Karen Spira, assistant professor of foreign languages, is one of them.

“It’s exciting, and I can’t wait to get to know more about this community,” said Spira.

Sharing Spira’s excitement is Rachel Riskind, assistant professor of psychology, who was also hired onto the tenure track.

There are also four new full-time, non-tenure track professors — Visiting Assistant Professor of Chemistry Daniel Christen, Visiting Assistant Professor of Geology Brad Carter, Visiting Instructor of Theatre Studies Robin Vest and Visiting Instructor of Theatre Studies Brian Coleman.

Also, Caroline McAlister, formerly a part-time member of the English Department, will now teach full-time.

Most of the new professors developed passions for their subject areas early.

Spira, for instance, discovered her love for language in middle school.

“I started studying Spanish in seventh grade, and I always knew that I wanted to go to college for comparative literature,” said Spira.

Riskind expressed a similar sentiment.

“I was probably always interested in understanding the mind and behavior,” Riskind said.

However, even passion is sometimes countered by the discouragement that comes from mistakes. Spira and Christen discovered firsthand that the path to learning is never straightforward, and mistakes are only to be expected.

“Students always make mistakes,” said Christen. “Even most professionals make mistakes. On good days, they won’t be million dollar mistakes, but sometimes people mix the wrong reagents and you get a few small fires.”

Once students themselves, professors have numerous stories to tell of former mistakes.

Spira, for instance, spoke of the mistakes and misunderstandings that often come with learning a new language.

“Luckily this did not happen to me, but the paradigmatic example in Spanish speaking is the exchange student who is sitting at the dinner table who is very embarrassed and says, ‘Estoy embarazada,’ which means, ‘I’m pregnant,’” said Spira.

Vest and Coleman also recounted mistakes in their professional experience, ranging from lighting failures to scene crashes.

Nevertheless, Carter and Coleman find making mistakes to be a vital part of the learning process.

“I have learned the most from failing,” said Carter. “I’ve learned that failure is an important part of learning. Don’t be afraid of it. Just enjoy what you do and the rest will come.”

Similarly, Coleman finds the possibility of failure to be one of the best parts of participating in theater.

“It is what makes live performance so exciting: the fact that anything can happen,” said Coleman.

When asked about their hopes at Guilford, each professor had different answers.

Vest, for instance, could not wait to work on her new set design and bolster Guilford’s design department.

Above all, the professors have high hopes and expectations for their students.

“I think Stephen Sondheim got pretty close when he wrote these lyrics: ‘sensitive, clever, well-mannered, considerate, passionate, charming, as kind as (they’re) handsome, and heir to a throne,’” said Riskind, referring to her expectations for students. “I would replace the last three with ‘inquisitive,’ ‘as kind as they’re hard-working,’ and ‘open-minded.’”

The new faculty brings with them an array of personalities, interests and skills that add to the rich diversity that already makes up the Guilford community. As the semester progresses, students should take the opportunity to get to know professors outside of the regular classroom setting to see what they can discover.

So, in the words of Vest, “Full speed ahead.”

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